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Sandstorm bogs down rescue effort to Tibet island
( 2003-09-25 00:03) (China Daily)

A severe sandstorm yesterday prevented rescue teams from reaching 16 travellers who have been stranded since last weekend on a small island in Tibet.

Strong winds loaded with dust and sand halted the rescuers en route to the island 5,000 metres above sea level and 600 kilometres away from Ari in northwestern Tibet, sources with the sponsor of the expedition told China Daily.

The 16-member group, consisting of 13 journalists, two drivers and a guide, have been stranded on the island since last Saturday.

Due to bad weather and unfamiliar terrain, rescuers inched towards the site at a much slower speed than was expected, said Ding Ming, general manager of Guiyang Laiguishan Wine Co, which sponsored the expedition.

"The rescue teams moved only about 30 kilometres today and there are still about 100 kilometres to the site,'' Ding said yesterday.

The nearest highway is about 150 kilometres away from the island, with a vast expanse of swamp in between.

Conditions on the island are harsh, with the average daily temperature lower than -10 C, Ding said.

"We are worried about the health conditions of members of the expedition because some of them have caught cold and have high fevers,'' he said.

"Their food and water supply is also a big problem since their supply trucks got stuck in mud en route to the site on Saturday,'' he said.

Two rescue teams -- an army team from nearby Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and a contingent of armed police from Ari -- started their journey early Sunday.

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